RAKES IN MILLIONS FOR CONSUMERS
Are you unhappy with your credit provider? Have you been given more debt than you can afford to pay back? Help is at hand, and it’s just an SMS away
According to the Credit Ombudsman’s 2016 annual report, the organisation has clawed back more than R10.7 million (an increase of 40.2%) to return to consumers’ pockets. This is an achievement that the new Credit Ombud, Nicky Lala-Mohan, is most proud of. “This amount is calculated by adding all the amounts where consumers had overpaid, or where we found some breach of the law that entitled the consumer to a refund or recalculation of their amounts owed. Most of the amounts are relatively small, which makes the total amount that much more remarkable,” he said.
The annual report also showed that there was a substantial increase in the calls fielded by its call centre – 32 095 to be exact, which is an increase of 32.35%. The total complaints and enquiries recorded rose by 16.5% to 14 343 for the period, while disputes opened for investigation amounted to 4 123 for the year, a small decrease of 8.8% compared with 2015. The ombud closed 4 422 disputes, a decrease of 12.8%.
“The office has not found any particular factor responsible for the slight drop in complaints and can only speculate that some credit providers and the credit bureaus are resolving consumers’ disputes more effectively, so there is no need to escalate the matter to our office,” said Lala-Mohan.
The most common non-bank credit cases that were disputed included consumers’ incorrect statements of account, emolument attachment orders, fraud cases and alleged reckless lending cases.
Many cases resulted in balances being written off, refunds being facilitated or consumers being helped to enter into payment arrangements. Some of the most common disputes relating to credit information cases include insufficient or incomplete credit information at the credit bureaus, outdated credit information, as well as credit grantors not supplying accurate information.
The office resolved 69.4% of the disputes in consumers’ favour, meaning that consumers’ complaints were mostly fully or partially upheld.
The introduction of the ombud’s SMS number – 44786 – in 2015 has also helped impoverished consumers. Once an SMS is sent, call centre staff contact the consumer to discuss their complaint or enquiry.
“One of the main reasons for the introduction of this project was the realisation that many of our consumers do not even have enough money to buy airtime to contact us. It often takes quite some time for a consumer to explain the background and facts of a credit dispute to us, and that could be costly. If a consumer makes use of the SMS message service, the office will respond by phoning the consumer, and we save the consumer the cost of the call,” said Lala-Mohan.